What should the Seahawks do with Chris Carson’s contract?
The Seahawks have gotten back to back 1,000-yard seasons from starting running back Chris Carson, who has emerged as one of the best backs in the NFL.
Carson was named a Pro Bowl alternate this season, and is currently fifth in the league in rushing yards in his third season and provides a physical running style that head coach Pete Carroll loves.
With his third season wrapping up, the Seahawks could choose to extend the 25-year-old back’s contract. His rooke deal is set to expire after the 2020 season.
So, what should the Seahawks do with him? Extend him early? Let him play out the rest of his deal? Let him walk? That was a key topic of discussion on the latest 710 ESPN Seattle Brock and Salk Podcast.
“Running backs don’t matter right? Running backs are all the same. Running backs, it doesn’t matter who they are because it’s all about the offensive line and the hole and this and that and like most things, we’ve talked about this before, and that’s an exaggeration,” Mike Salk said. “The original comment and the original belief was most running backs don’t matter, but there’s usually a few guys at the top and a few guys on the bottom that do (matter). And if you’ve got one of those two types of guys, you see the difference … The guys at the top, a few of them do matter.”
When the Seahawks were dominant during the early- and mid-2010s, they had one of the best running backs in the league in Marshawn Lynch who led the best rushing attack in pro football. Now, Carson is one of the top backs in the league for the second-straight year, and is a heck of a bargain at just $645,000 per spotrac.com. Last Sunday in a 30-24 win over the Carolina Panthers, he proved he’s a top back by rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
“There are times where Chris Carson matters. I didn’t even like the decision to go for it on fourth down (against Carolina when he ran for a touchdown) … but he matters in that spot because he just keeps his legs going and just drives his way into the end zone,” Salk said. “When you see some of those toss sweeps at the end of the game where he just decides he’s going to outrun everybody to the edge and then put his head down and get another five yards, those do matter. They specifically lead to winning games.”
The Seahawks drafted running back Rashaad Penny in the first round in 2018, but he struggled to find his footing until late this season before tearing his ACL. Meanwhile, Carson, a seventh-round pick in 2017, has emergenced as a top back since 2018. Is extending contract a priority, especially when defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and defensive tackle Jarran Reed will be free agents after this season?
“Are you ready to pay Chris Carson? You’re going to have $60 million in cap space, so you can now pay him after his third year,” Brock uard said. “You could go to him in this month of December in fat and get a little more of a team-friendly deal to sign an extension to next year’s number that will be a little bit cheaper.”
Huard pointed to the team’s lack of a rushing attack from when Lynch left and Carson took the reins last season as a reason why you may consider extending him, especially as he’s shown he can be a great running back for two-straight seasons.
“This has now been two seasons where this guy’s yards after contact, where his desire to punish fools, where his one-two punch with Russell, when he gets it is just different,” Huard said. “When he touches the ball, it is just simply different.”
Salk, who is a big Carson fan, isn’t sure if Seattle should extend him unless the money is right.
“Now, if he’s willing to sign a deal that is super team-friendly … yeah, I’d do something like that because I’d like to have him around for a reasonable amount of money,” Salk said, adding that he wouldn’t pay him similar to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who makes an average of $15 million on the contract he signed ahead of this season. “I love watching him, he’s awesome, but I don’t think I’d get involved in that.”
The Seahawks have traditionally been a run-first offense, and they now have a proven, top running back. Huard said players like Carson are hard to find.
“You’ve got an upper-class guy, there’s no question about it,” Huard said. “His teammates know it, the opponents on the other side know it. When Arizona gets ready to play this game, yeah there’s some fear of Russell, there’s no question … but there’s a legit fear of No. 32 who (Arizona safety) Budda Baker is giving up 35 pounds and speed to that guy and everybody in their secondary is. And you know what you’re starting to see? Business decisions. ‘I don’t want to tackle this dude, he’s going to hurt me.’ He’s gotten to that point, so he’s one of yours in your conversation of that spectrum. He is on that front end. He is in your upper class.”
Running backs are a position where players will start to show decline in play earlier than at some other skill positions. Salk is worried about Carson in that regard.
“How many good years am I going to get out of him before I have to watch the decline? Three?” he said.
Huard responded, “I would think you’re going to get at least three more years.”
While many top running backs were also workhorses in college, such as Elliott and Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, Carson had just over 200 rushing attempts his last two years of college combined.
“He had some light tread in (his collegiate) years bouncing around some different schools,” Huard said. “So as far as a workload goes, it was last year and it’s this year, so you should absolutely have three-plus more (good seasons).”
Because Carson is still under contract through next season, Salk thinks the team should wait to see how he performs until then and see if Carson can stay healthy. Huard said people may be underestimating how good Carson is in the grand scheme of the NFL.
“Chris Carson is getting to that, to me, that special end of things,” he said. “That for now two years, not six games, not eight games … this is a guy last season that had more than 1,000 yards rushing and was a big reason why you got to the playoffs … What other running backs in the league would you rather have right now than Chris Carson? Maybe Zeke Elliot, but not at $15 million. Give me this dude.”
Plus, Huard said, if you sign Carson earlier, you have a better chance of getting him for less money.
“You get less burned when you get a good, team-friendly deal,” Huard said. “A deal that is not a low ball to the player. Look at the deal you signed with Tyler Lockett.”
Listen to the discussion at this link or in the player below at the 18:45 mark.